The Gold Coast has always been Australia’s darling in the sun – a place of escape and escapism, a place that boasts an eternal summer and shines when the rest of Australia shivers, freezes or hibernates for the winter.
With 300 days of sunshine every year, consistency in the weather is a hallmark of the Gold Coast and the city has been built on the premise that people like the sun. From north to south, magnificent sandy beaches with creamy sand and the bluest, warm water stretch in an endless slice of the Pacific Rim.
Wedged between the Queensland Coast and Tablelands to the west, the high-rise city finds a balance between metropolis and holiday destination. The mood is casual, dictated by the climate and visitors quickly swap their usual formal dress code for the informal “uniform” of the coast – ”boardies and thongs“ (swimming trunks and rubber sandals). When you’re staying on the Gold Coast there’s no need for formality.
The heart of the Gold Coast is Surfer’s Paradise, a name which is synonymous with an endless summer. “Surfer’s” is the original mecca for surf-loving devotees in search of the perfect wave and has attracted millions of visitors for decades. At its centre is Cavill Mall, lined with shops, bars and restaurants, with generous open-air places to sit, shake the sand from your feet and sip on a cool drink. It buzzes during the day as people move from the beach to their hotels and back again.
Surrounding Cavill Mall in Surfer’s Paradise, the streets are a playground built for the serious shopper. From the designer labels of Bvlgari, Tiffany & Co, Gucci and Prada to the corner shop selling traditional postcards and souvenirs, every taste and budget is accounted for.
And shopping is not the only street pastime. Hundreds of restaurants, cafes and bars cater for nearly every taste. The Gold Coast cuisine is as eclectic as the mix of tourists and the majority of eating options are casual and informal. For those in search of a fine dining experience, the options away from the big hotels may disappoint.
In the centre of Surfer’s Paradise stands Q1, arguably the world’s tallest residential tower and the tallest building in Australia (well, if you include the 30-metre pole on the top of the building it is taller than Melbourne’s Eureka Tower). The sleek building now dominates the skyline and can be seen as an iconic landmark for hundreds of kilometres. With a sensational observation deck and function space on the 75th floor, the views of the sprawling city up and down the coast are unparalleled.
But the fun starts when the sun rises and the attractions open up for the day.
The Gold Coast is a world of worlds. Seaworld, Dreamworld, Movieworld and a galaxy of other worlds that ensure your fun never ends. A trip to the Gold Coast is hardly complete without at least a day at one of the major attractions.
Seaworld is a favourite for conference planners. Catering for large groups after hours, the theme park can be booked on an exclusive-use basis. Alternatively, many planners take up the option of simply letting their delegates loose for a day, allowing them to make their own fun at their own pace. The animals at Seaworld including the dolphins, polar bears and sharks are a big hit.
At Dreamworld, there is a range of attractions to thrill, enthrall and amaze. For the adventurous, rides such as The Claw have set a new standard in scary rides. The folk at Dreamworld say it’s the most powerful pendulum on the planet. As the giant machine slowly starts, thrill-seekers are propelled at 64km per hour and swing from the height of a nine-storey building. The adrenalin pumps and the blood drains from their faces as they see the world from a dizzy perspective. The Claw is not for the faint-hearted but too good an opportunity to pass up.
But Dreamworld is not just about scary rides and thrilling adventures. Over on Tiger Island is an opportunity to get up close and personal with the gentlemen of the jungle over dinner. Purpose built as a function venue, Tiger Island in the centre of Dreamworld can accommodate small to moderate-sized groups for dinner. A performance from the Bengal tigers and their handlers has the audience captivated throughout the event. Again, as all theme parks on the Gold Coast close to the public at 5pm, exclusive use is available by arrangement.
Movieworld is also a favourite with many visitors to the coast. Familiar faces from movies past and revisiting the scenes made famous on film never fails to impress. Many planners have incorporated day visits to one or two of the theme parks, while others have opted for the exclusivity which only comes from a private function within the grounds.
And privacy is definitely something that abounds at McLaren’s Landing.
A short boat ride from Surfer’s Paradise, McLaren’s Landing is a unique patch of unspoilt land on South Stradbroke Island. Bordered on one side by calm, sheltered waters, and on the other by the Pacific Ocean, the day resort is set in the middle of a national park which covers the remainder of the island.
Open to the public during the day, small boats and tall ships arrive with day trippers, all eager to escape the busy holiday scene of the Gold Coast. This is a place to unwind, relax, and just take it easy for a while. A simple barbeque lunch and well-stocked bar provide the catering and Mother Nature provides the rest.
Wild wallabies and birdlife abound, calling in to the open-air dining area around lunchtime for a convenient meal.
McLaren’s Landing is located far enough from other habitation to allow it to have exemption from noise control. Nighttime functions transform the island resort into a stunning event venue – one that prides itself on a typically Australian, yet uncontrived ambience. By day, the island is a quiet retreat but at night, by prior arrangement, it becomes a party paradise.
Returning to the Gold Coast from McLaren’s landing by tall ship is the perfect way to complete the relaxation experience. As the ship draws closer to the city, the mood changes and it’s back into the swing of city life.
The Gold Coast has always been popular and for good reason. It’s blessed with magnificent weather and planners love it because of its accommodation options, sensational Convention Centre and multitude of attractions. The city just keeps getting better and better.
GOLD COAST CONTACTS
GOLD COAST TOURISM
Contact: Jacqui Taylor
Gold Coast Conventiion Centre
Australia’s largest city seems to offer every world-class option imaginable for business events, writes Miles Clarke
Sydney is one of a handful of great cities about which just about everyone has a picture in their mind.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it shares top billing with Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town as far as natural attractions are concerned. Sydney’s not perfect by any means but, if you have a shopping list of offshore destinations for a corporate meeting or incentive travel reward programme, it takes some beating.
There’re many reasons for choosing the “Emerald City” as your host destination, not least the fact that the economy of the state of New South Wales is larger than each of the national economies of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and New Zealand. It’s a place to do business and watch business being done.
A greater range of languages is spoken in Sydney than in any other business location in the Asia-Pacific region. Some 10 percent of Sydney residents speak an Asian language at home, at least 400,000 people. A group of 400 executives from a Taiwan supermarket group visited Sydney recently. For most of them, this was the first time they’d ever visited a non-Asian country. In the Hilton Sydney, the host hotel, there were more than sufficient Chinese-speaking staff on hand to assist them while they found their feet.
Sydney’s a major centre for regional Asia- Pacific headquarters, a compelling reason for Asian organisations seeking to expand the thinking of their key performers.
While Sydney has many unbeatable assets in its meetings and events infrastructure, not least its incomparable harbour, bride and opera house, it’s no secret that Sydney is lagging behind Melbourne with regard to the provision of high-quality conference space for large meetings.
This has come about mostly due to emerging destinations and the boom in the construction of convention centres and infrastructure, with China and other parts of Asia marching ahead. Another factor working against Australia is the recent surge in the value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar.
But the situation is by no means doom and gloom since cost is just one of a number of factors which are taken into account when decisions are made on a particular destination for a corporate meeting or incentive travel reward. Sydney is a proud First World city that doesn’t always get it right, but can hold itself up against the best of the best.
The Asian region can expect to see a more aggressive marketing effort from Sydney in coming months, following the formation of a government support company to be known as Events New South Wales to secure major events, including meetings, for Australia’s first city.
Sydney’s strength lies in the diversity of the experience it offers the event planner. You just had to see the faces of the 700 guests from Taipei company Sinyi Realty, who found themselves attending their high achievements awards ceremony in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House was a key factor in making Sinyi Realty pick Sydney for their incentive conference and awards ceremony.
“The annual meeting is very important in the life of the company,” said the chairman and founder of the company Chou Chun-Chi. “It’s a time for communication and friendship to grow and having our main ceremony in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House was very exciting. It’s an iconic building and the memory of attending our ceremony will stay with them forever.”
Afterward the entire party boarded the Captain Cook Cruises vessel Sydney 2000, which is one of the largest cruising restaurant ships in the world, for a sunset cruise, dinner and a spectacular fireworks display with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
This is the edge that Sydney has on many other destinations, the ability to use a wide range of venues in any number of ingenious ways. The harbour has a shoreline that is more than 300 km long, winding in and out of innumerable bays and inlets. Many historic buildings and more contemporary spaces with great water views are available for functions. There are islands such as Shark, Clark and Fort Denison, which provide spectacular views and are used effectively for any number of purposes.
Imagine dining on a long table set in the middle of the Stadium where the Sydney 2000 Games were held, with a huge screen and state-of-the-art sound sysytem showing some of the great moments from the Games. Then to have one of the gold medal winning sportsmen or women appear in person for an entertaining after-dinner talk?
Sydney is every much a “world city” as Hong Kong or Singapore, so there’s no problem accessing a wide range of people who have the expertise and creativity to ensure the corporate objectives of the host organisation is achieved.
To this end, Meetings & Events Australia, the association that represents the best and brightest in the business, has some 40 special event companies listed for New South Wales alone. In addition, there are another dozen who work nationally and would have no problem organising an event in and around Sydney.
Many of these special event operators were used by the various sponsors during the 2000 Olympics and are well versed in working under the immense pressure of tight deadlines and in all conditions.
Sydney has a mild climate but it is always essential to have a wet weather contingency plan and this is where local knowledge can be so useful.
Chris Zhang of PTC Tours, with offices in Sydney and Shanghai, has organised a number of large incentive programmes in Sydney for groups from across East Asia. He can perhaps be credited for breaking away from the tried-and-tested programmes which comprise mainly sightseeing and shopping.
He hired a fleet of sleek racing yachts with skilled skippers at the helms and took some 400 plus delegates from China out onto Sydney Harbour, where they raced one another in races identical to those held on the same harbour for the past 200 years. The excitement of being so close to the water and with such a spectacular city backdrop had the participants beaming when they returned to the marina at Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay.
Sydney is generally a very safe city and it’s certainly very much in order for dine-around evenings, visits to Chinatown and the casino to be put in place so that visitors get a good sense of the city.
Perhaps the most ideal waterfront dining is to be had on King Street Wharf, where there is a swag of seafood and Asian-style restaurants. The harbour cruise vessels all call at this wharf and a sunset cocktail cruise could be followed by a seafood dinner overlooking the activity at Darling Harbour. Chinatown has some excellent restaurants, while the real fine dining restaurants are mostly in the Circular Quay area, many of which have views of the floodlit Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Of course, the quintessential Sydney experience is to climb the Harbour Bridge. Since the start of BridgeClimb ten years ago, some two million people have experienced the adrenalin rush which comes when stepping onto the ladders that lead them to the very top of the spans, where their pictures are taken to record the memorable day.
Visitors go up in all weather conditions apart from when there are electrical storms and each day is different in some way from the one that preceded it. BridgeClimb came about after a Sydney businessman had the almost unheard-of luck to legally climb the bridge during a high-level business conference. It took him nearly 10 years to arrange and some US$17.5 million to fulfil his dream.
Contact: Raachael Walker
Contact: Nick Millis
Contact: Chris Zhang
Tel: +61 2 9281 2277
Bayer Schering Pharma China
In November 2007, Bayer Schering Pharma China chose Sydney as the destination to bring some 2,000 of its workforce to help accelerate the merging process between the two pharmaceutical giants.
The merged entity is the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in China.
The programme was developed by the CYTS touring company of Beijing, with events in Sydney co-ordinated by Offsite Connections, a leading destination management company which itself has an office in Shanghai and has handled many of the major Asian corporate groups to Australia.
The visitor were accommodated in 10 five-star hotels across Sydney and a fleet of coaches was carefully co-ordinated to ensure smooth transfers to the various venues and attractions around the city.
Running the programme for CYTS was Albert Lee from Beijing, a veteran of a number of corporate meeting groups to Australia in recent years.
“Our group came from all over China and it’s been a very exciting experience for them to come to a city like Sydney. We were very fortunate with the weather and were able to make the most of what Sydney has to offer.”
Half the group spent a day out at Blaxland Park adjacent to Sydney Olympic on a teambuilding exercise, which carried a sporting theme to complement the overall theme of the programme about working together to achieve corporate objectives.
The five-day programme also involved a full-day conference at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, which was followed by a sports themed dinner, with huge screen projection, lots of vibrant dancers and flags, with the night culminating with fireworks over Sydney Harbour.
There was a tie-in between Sydney as a past Olympic City and Beijing just about to become one.
Captain Cook Cruises took each and every participant out for a cruise on the harbour, a ritual that every delegate who ever comes to Sydney for the first time faithfully observes.
“We had about seven months to develop the programme, which is fairly tight given the amount of detail such a event requires,” says Andrew Booth, the programme’s director for Offsite Connections.
Supermarket Superstars Clear the Aisles
One of Taiwan’s most dynamic retailers, the Chuan Lian Corporation, chose Sydney to reward its top performing store managers for their efforts in positioning the company as market leader in its category.
While financial services and real-estate companies from Taiwan have used Australian destinations for their events, this was the first time a Taiwanese retailer has brought key stakeholders to Australian shores.
In just nine years, the Chuan Lian supermarket group has grown from 66 to 411 stores, generating more than US$1 billion a year in revenue.
The group is positioned as the most accessible channel for daily necessities in Taiwan and the management plans to lift the company’s presence to 500 stores in the near future.
“As soon as our group became profitable four years ago, we launched an incentive programme that would see our store managers from our top supermarkets join their colleagues on an all-expenses paid trip offshore,” says Andy Huang, executive president of the Chuan Lian Corporation.
Previous company trips were to Japan and China and for many of the 525 store managers this was their first visit to a western country. Sydney turned on spectacular blue skies for the duration, which saw three waves of guests arriving for their six-night programme of relaxation and entertainment.
The Hilton Sydney was the host venue for the group and the scene of a lavish gala dinner where the company president, Lin Ming Hsuing, had a chance to thank his mainly youthful (and female) managers for their contribution to the success the company is currently enjoying. An Australian spirit prevailed with indigenous dance and didgeridoo performances.
The seventh lunar month (July) is given over to the Ghost Festival in Taiwan, when offerings are made to ancestors and spirits and this is a peak trading period for the Chuan Lian stores. The managers of the most profitable stores over this period become eligible to join the company’s annual incentive.
Huang says Sydney proved an excellent choice. “Our people have just loved being here. Many of them have helped clear the shelves of the local Woolworths supermarket near the hotel. They have to take souvenirs and gifts to their families and supermarket workers, so they’ve been stocking up in a big way. They also get a chance to see how supermarkets operate in other countries.”
The visitors had a chance to dine in some of Sydney’s many Chinese restaurants; enjoy the sights and sounds of Darling Harbour; take Sydney Harbour cruises and have a flutter at the Star City Casino.
They also had the chance to visit the New South Wales wine country in the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, where they could experience the Australian bush in all its glory.
“For most of our people, this has been a very new experience, but they have really enjoyed themselves. We’ve had knowledgeable guides and some of our people have taken themselves off to local bars to enjoy the spirit of the big Australian football matches,” says Andy Huang.
The head of tourism events for Tourism Australia, Joyce DiMascio, was on hand at the gala dinner to welcome the guests on behalf of Australia and exchange gifts.
She thanked them for choosing Australia and expressed the hope they would one day return to with friends and family to see more of the country. A toast was drunk to mutual friendship.
Major Life Assurance Company
This leading insurance company brought 400 of its top performers to Sydney recently for a week of luxury and inspiration as a mark of appreciation for their efforts to further the objectives of the organisation.
Their gala dinner was held at the Fleet Steps adjoining the Royal Botanical Gardens overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bride. Event organisers, Tour Hosts, had fairy light strung through the trees and across the marquee.
As guests arrived at the bottom of the stairs, photographers were on hand to capture them with the famous view behind them. While they were at dinner, the pictures were printed up and delivered in frames to their hotel rooms.
The String Angels, a three-piece electronic violin group entertained while canapes and drinks were served. A dinner of gourmet Australian produced was served before the showing of a highlights video capturing all the main events of their trip, including their time on Hayman Island in the Whitsundays group of islands off Queensland. It even had images of them arriving at the dinner just an hour or two earlier.
During their time in Sydney, they visited the Tobruk Sheep Station, where they were given a taste of Australian country life, including the old staples of whip-cracking, sheep shearing and boomerang throwing.
A vintage ferry was made available to transport them to Fort Denison, a magnificent old sandstone construction in the middle of Sydney Harbour where muskets were fired to welcome them to a convicts and soldiers themed party.
A steam train was used to carry 50 of them in vintage rolling stock up to the Blue Mountains in the company of actors, who kept them amused for the two-hour transfer to this World Heritage listed natural wonderland. At the same time, 50 of their colleagues boarded a fleet of helicopters for an even more scenic transfer to the mountains, where they had a chance to explore the native forests ahead of a cheerful lunch with a sweeping view over the Jamison Valley, an unbroken bushland vista. The groups swapped modes of transport back to Sydney and those on the train found an elegant cigar lounge had been created for their return home.